This post is part of a series on faith in the New Testament.
Here begins our first book of the Bible showing the examples of the word faith in the New Testament. This post will look at the thirteen examples we see in the Gospel of Matthew with a brief commentary on each.
“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe youâ€”you of little faith?”
Here is one of many passages we see where a lack of faith is viewed as indictment on that person’s spirituality. This does not shed insight into the question of faith, but it shows that a person can have a lack of faith from an imbalance in the way you follow Jesus. Thus we could also conclude that there is a healthy type of faith in contrast to this. We could call that “great faith” or literally, “much faith.”
“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’ “
Here is the first example we see (of many) where Jesus points out a person for their faith. Notice the boldness of His statement: “I have not found anyone in Israel [like you].” Can you imagine that being said about you? What a tremendous compliment. The centurion clearly has a great faith. This is the first hint we see to the question of faith. If the centurion’s faith was 100% a gift from God, it would be pretty absurd for Jesus to passive aggressively compliment Himself by vicariously complimenting the centurion. There is something about the centurion that he has done and it is that aspect that Jesus is pointing out here.
“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”
Again, we see another indictment of little faith. This passage shows us that fear and faith are incompatible.
“Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ “
I love this passage. Contrary to what most Americans, who value individualization above community, think about following God, this passage shows how faith can exist in a network of people together. Notice the plural “their” that ultimately benefits the (singular) paralyzed man. Their faith causes Jesus to bring healing and forgiveness.
“Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.”
Again, we see faith as the cause for healing. It is almost as if Jesus is removing Himself from the scenario. YOUR FAITH has healed you.
“Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you…’ “
Here we see a great phrase introduced: according to your faith. This implies degrees of faith and degrees of results from that faith. Again this shows us that there is such a thing as a healthy faith.
“And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”
We’ll see in other gospels how this verse is said even stronger. Lack of faith, in this passage, is actually something able to limit the movement of God. If faith is solely a gift of God, this would be a little odd. That would mean that Jesus decided not to do miracles there because He hadn’t given them the faith to allow for it. This hints at faith as a virtue.
“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ “
Criticism of lack of faith. Lack of faith can be coupled with doubt as we see here.
“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
Another example of Jesus singling out a person for their great faith. This allowed the healing that she was requesting from Jesus.
“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?’ “
Another criticism of lack of faith. Already in Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus having to address numerous times when His followers didn’t have the faith that He hoped they would. This is another reminder to us of why studies like this one are so valuable as Christians today.
“He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ “
In response to why His disciples couldn’t drive out demons, Jesus points out their current status of faith as the problem. Then He declares that something as absurd as moving a mountain is possible with the right faith. I find the last sentence of this verse interesting in the focus. Nothing will be impossible for YOU. Like we saw with 9:22, the focus seems to be less on God and more on us.
“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea” and it will be done.’ “
Another example of absurd scenarios caused by faith, whether it be withering a fig tree or throwing a mountain into the see (again with moving mountains?).
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…”
Here you have faith being used as we often use it today. It is a synonym for our overall journey with God. There is an element of collective faith that a person either has or doesn’t have.
While we see a variety of aspects of faith from the first book in the New Testament, we see a handful of passages that lend themselves to faith as a virtue and none that strongly argue faith as a pure gift. There are even two passages that take the focus off of God when it comes to faith. My friend Kyle summed it up well on this blog when said that faith is our response to God’s revelation. God initiates the process that makes faith possible but ultimately the response is up to us. This is a strong conclusion and one that is supported by the examples from the Gospel of Matthew.
It is also clear that Jesus reprimands His followers for little faith so we know that a healthy faith is something we should be striving for. I hope you’ll keep reading the entire series as we see what the other books say about this subject!